It's been a rough week for travelers. After United Airlines faced criticism for how it handled an overbooked flight, a woman came forward with her own United horror story involving an intoxicated passenger and some unwelcome advances.
Jennifer Rafieyan told the Huffington Post that she and her daughter were seating in a row with an empty aisle seat. Then, a clearly intoxicated man sat in the empty seat. In fact, he was so drunk that he needed assistance to get to his seat. When he finally got settled, the flight attendants warned Rafieyan, saying that if she needed anything, they were there to help.
"[One attendant] made some comment to me like, 'This is going to be an interesting flight,' and looked at him," Rafieyan said to HuffPo. "And then the other flight attendant came up and said, 'Let me know if you need anything. I mean it' — and she looked at him."
What followed something out of a nightmare. Rafieyan says that during the flight, the fellow passenger repeatedly groped her. She explained that he touched her legs and knees, kissed her hands, and placed his head on her shoulders. He even snatched a notebook out of her hands and wrote "PASIONAT NITE XX" on her to-do list.
Rafieyan adds that she froze during the incident and that she was too meek to do anything.
"I don't react well. I freeze," she told HuffPo. "When a man is inappropriate with me, I usually just run from it and maybe tell somebody. But I felt trapped. I couldn't leave the seat because I didn't trust him near my daughter."
When her daughter got up to use the restroom, Rafeiyan reported the incident to a flight attendant, who reported that the unwieldy passenger had been acting the same way towards one of the other attendants. Additionally, Rafeyian says that the flight attendants continued to serve the passenger alcohol, even though federal law prohibits boarding anyone who "appears to be intoxicated " and offering them alcoholic beverages. The same rule appears on United Airlines' own contract of carriage. Rafeyian adds that the passenger was causing other problems as well and he didn't calm down until flight attendants threatened to divert the plane.
Rafeyian reported the incident to United on March 29. In response, she received four $100 travel vouchers, but no formal apology and no explanation as to why United went against its own contract by allowing the passenger to board.
"If you review the complaint, you will note that I did not ask for any monetary reimbursement but instead answers," Rafeyian's email to United reads. "I feel devalued as a human being."
After she involved the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation, and even the FBI, which handles sexual harassment on airplanes, United finally offered up an apology.
"We sincerely apologize to Ms. Rafieyan and her family for their experience. We are reviewing the way that this situation was handled on board, and how our customer care team responded," a United spokeswoman told The Huffington Post. "We will follow up with Ms. Rafieyan to apologize again, and discuss how we could have handled this situation better."
Rafieyan's incident is United's latest PR nightmare. Recently, the airline came under fire for not allowing two passengers to board because they were wearing leggings. Earlier this week, flight crew dragged a passenger off an overbooked plane after he refused to reschedule his flight. Rafieyan referenced the leggings incident in her report, saying, "It seems like they have their priorities totally warped."
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